The Corporate Coffee Hydra

23 Mar

Starbucks is evil because they come into town and steamroll right over any independent coffee shops in a given area, and whether you believe that or not you’ve no doubt had it explained to you by someone who does.  Starbucks have always symbolized to a wide swath of the population the worst in soulless, corporate domination – right up there with Walmart.

And then apparently there’s a whole other swath of the population, and this one loves Starbucks, almost for the same reason.  I think this is the crowd which feels uncomfortable in some of the more smug, hipster independent places, has maybe had a bad experience there with somebody sneering at them, somebody with something pierced.  And this swath of the population doesn’t like piercings, no sir.

Then there’s a wide middle swath, and that’s where I am.  We know Walmart and Starbucks are evil, but they kind of got us.  Walmart’s cheap as hell and Starbucks has a drive-thru, and that’s just the nature of things.

But even that last batch, we’re not sad to watch Starbucks taking a beating lately, as the economy suffers and across the nation people start to realize hey, that’s pretty expensive coffee and I don’t really need that.

It would really be a pleasure to watch if it weren’t for where the beating’s coming from, which is McDonald’s.  So it’s not like America is telling the corporate world to go screw because they want independents and small business owners to have their money instead.

No, it’s just that another giant company came after Starbucks, a bigger fish named McDonald’s. 

I was talking to my friend Colin about it the other day – he owns Colin’s Coffee here in Columbus, and had spent the previous morning watching out the window as a non-stop stream of cars rolled through the McDonald’s drive thru across the parking lot, many of them getting a single cup of coffee.

Kind of stinks how we do that – and I really don’t mean to be sanctimonious about it, because sometimes I do it, too.  But that’s a stark image to me, one man who sells coffee watching as a gargantuan corporate machine across the parking lot offers the same product, and that’s where we go, the vast majority of us.

Nothing new for McDonald’s – they were pulling a Starbucks on mom-and-pop diners for years, to the point that it’s fairly rare to run across an independent diner anymore.  I imagine in the months leading up to the closing of each of their doors, a lot of diner-owners spent a lot of time, staring at a lot of McDonalds.

There’s even a diner here in Ohio – I forget where, southwest somewhere but not Cincinnati – called McDee’s, and it’s owned by a couple whose last names are McDonald.  And they used tto call it McDonald’s.  But then McDonald’s caught wind of it, and filed suit or something – I don’t know the details.  But they had to change it.  They weren’t allowed to put their own name on the sign.

And I knew another couple who owned a Subway in a strip mall.  And then Walmart landed a huge store right there on the other side of the parking lot.  Walmart showed up in human form and told them that what they ought to do is move their Subway into Walmart.

No thanks, said the couple.  We like our Subway right here, and you’d charge us more rent than we pay here. 

That’s true, said Walmart.  But we’re putting a Subway in there whether it’s you running it or not, so if you want pounded into the ground by another more cooperative Subway owner with a store right over there with all our customers walking past it, knock yourself out.  Our advice is, move your ass over to Walmart.

Which is where their Subway was when I met them.  Sometimes you can find people working in the bakery department who actually once owned and operated local bakeries.  Chomp, chomp, chomp, said Walmart.

As for Colin, I think he’s doing fine over there because he’s also a rock star.  So he gets the rock star network in there, and he’s a good guy who doesn’t act like a rock star, so the non-rock star network crowd digs him, too.  It’s one of those places where everyone seems to know each other.

But you know, not everyone’s a rock star.  I’d say he’s the exception, as far as independent coffee shops go, and not the rule.

You know, just a little something to think about, and I’m as guilty as the next guy so please don’t think I’m yelling at you.  But as corporations are getting more and more powerful, every single cup of independent coffee or plate of independent food matters a lot more to human beings standing there trying to make a living, than they do to the monstrous corporate overlords.  If it’s a matter of price I’d seriously suggest walking in there and talking to the owner about it – if you’re going to be in a lot, they’ll frequently cut you some kind of deal.

Anyway, nothing you didn’t already know, I’m sure.  Support the independent guys and if you’re going to occasionally go to the corporate places, make sure to feel bad about yourself and possibly steal something.

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Posted by on March 23, 2011 in Uncategorized


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